After 47 days and a lost MVP conversation, Kevin Durant returned in Miami, and he's back on a team that is three games away from not even participating in the play-in tournament. There seems to be a passionate, albeit irrational, argument for why this Nets team will bounce back into contender island with the emergence of fresh talent. But history seems to disagree.
The logical argument
People keep saying these Nets do not represent who they will be in the playoffs. That it doesn't matter that for the last two months, they’ve been getting blown out by average teams, because why not ignore the scores and point to some bench camera shot.
That's an amazing list of names, but just because no team has as many past All-Star appearances or future Hall Of Famers, the Nets are favorites to win an NBA championship?
There has not been a single team in 75 years that’s lost 7 consecutive games and won the NBA championship that very season. The Nets just came off an 11-game losing stretch. So I don’t wanna hear "that doesn’t matter."
Teams that lose 11 consecutive games, regardless of the missing personnel, are not one of the best teams. And if you’re not one of the best teams, you don't win the championship. Teams that face as much chaos as the Nets have all season - don't win championships.
We haven’t even mentioned that Irving and Harden created more headlines for wrong reasons than they did for good this year. And how their actions reportedly made everybody miserable. That’s the logical argument: despite missing players, this team displayed too many losses and too much chaos to be favored against teams that have shown consistent excellence.
KD defies logic
But hey, they still have Kevin Durant.
That’s where the logic goes out the window. I get it; Durant is when healthy - the best player in the league. I don’t have to remind people that he was undisputedly better than Giannis in that Bucks series.
Then the Greek Freek won a championship and rose his game to a level in those Finals we hadn’t previously seen. But in that six-game series, KD was the man. KD defies logic.
See, our brains are split into two sides, working in completely different departments for a reason - the left works in logic, the right works in creativity. We know what the logical argument is. Just like we know what the more created, imaginative argument is that holds its basis in hypotheticals. So, where is the line?
When you watch the Golden State Warriors play without Draymond Green - they are a completely different team. They can’t rebound, there’s less ball movement and more isolation, the rim is less protected, there are more turnovers - they are just a different team.
The numbers back this up. They are 28-6 with him and 15-13 without him. That's some superstar-level numbers. Is Draymond a superstar? No. But he’s somebody that embodies the value of chemistry. That guy knows Steph’s and Klay’s 2nd cousins. He’s locked in. Don't get me wrong; he is a phenomenal talent - versatile genius - defensive mastermind. But he’s been with that team so long, he knows the system, and evidently, he is the system.
The Nets are not like that.
They’re a 2k team. A collection of talent with little thought for stylistic compatibility. You watch Draymond dribble up the floor with Steph trailing; it is incredible. He dribbles to the side, he senses Curry on his left, then without even eye contact, they do this very effective hand-off screen cut to the basket thing, and it works. Defenders know it's coming, but it still works. That level of 'spidey sense,' not many teams can do that.
And what you find is, when you look at the rankings, the good teams have experience playing with each other. They have their own examples of ‘spidey sense.’
Phoenix, Miami, Milwaukee, Memphis. These aren’t teams that were built overnight like the Lakers, who are struggling. This Nets team has just been completely rebuilt overnight. This is a new team with no experience playing together.
LeBron didn’t win a championship until his second year in Miami. Or until his second year in Cleveland. Kobe didn't win a championship until his second year with Pau Gasol. This will be the first year of this Nets era, so it matters that they have no chemistry. It matters that their role players with Kyrie couldn’t win anything.
Don’t look at bench shots of guys in street clothes, who are barely even teammates at this point, and say none of that matters. Talent alone does not solve everything.
You can bring up Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers, as they didn’t like each other. But they did have chemistry. They had at least one championship under their belt before the walls started to crack. This Nets team hasn’t won anything let alone played together. That matters.